The past several years haven’t been much fun—the poor economy has taken a toll on business psyches. But the latest surveys show small business optimism continues to rise. It’s time to get out of that downtrodden rut and start enjoying what you do again. Here are 14 tips to help you turn up the fun-o-meter in the coming year.
1. Eliminate stresses, especially the little ones
Like the proverbial frog in a saucepan, you adjust to irritations without realizing you may be getting into hot water. Fortunately, little stresses are usually easy to fix once you recognize them. Are expense reports a pain? There’s an app for that. Do you work at home and neighbors intrude? Put a sign on the door: “I work at home and pass gas.” Maybe they’ll take the hint—or at least understand you do less driving.
2. Break the rules
Rules (not to be confused with laws) are made to guide us, not control us. Creative solutions come from finding ways to break the rules. Besides being profitable, breaking rules can be fun.
3. Focus your time and energy
Yogi Berra understood the problem: “If you don't know where you are going, you’ll wind up somewhere else." Set goals, make a decision, control your destiny, but don’t just watch life happen. In Yogi’s words, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it." The best way to get organized is to make lists.
4. Don't chase hare-brained schemes
Just because you can think of something doesn’t mean you should do it. Bright ideas are overrated—execution is what counts. Chasing all those ideas will distract you from what you should be doing. If an idea is a truly good one, find a place for it in your plan based on logic rather than impulse. Don’t believe everything you think—common sense is a notoriously bad measure of reality.
5. Stop working with people you don't like
You don’t have to work with jerks. I had a job I really liked, but my boss made my life miserable. So I called a few recruiters, raved about his knowledge and experience (genuinely extraordinary), and he ended up with a job at a new company. You don’t have to use such an extreme solution, but you do have choices.
6. Drop high-maintenance customers
Life is too short, and some people (and companies) are more trouble than they’re worth —emotionally and financially. With a little encouragement they’ll go elsewhere. You don’t have to offend them to get rid of them.
6. Do something nice
It’s not all about you, and it’s not all about your company. Take time to do something good for someone else, for a charity, even for another company. It will make you feel all warm inside.
8. Don't sweat the small stuff
Life is full of little aggravations—the customer service representative who is worse than dealing with a robot, the idiot who cut in front of you in traffic, the over easy eggs when you asked for sunny side up. Chill. In the great scheme of things, does it really matter?
9. Take responsibility
Don’t be a victim. If you are harmed, do something about it, but don’t blame others for your situation. Take control, eliminate blame, eliminate excuses.
You’re not indispensable. Let other people help you. Share the work, better yet, share your knowledge. An entrepreneur, according the Virgin Airways CEO Richard Branson, “...is not a manager. An entrepreneur is someone who is great at conceiving ideas, starting ideas, building ideas, but then handing over to good managers to handle the business.”
It’s easy to let the hustle and bustle keep you from investing a little time just to think. Why do great ideas come to you in the shower? That may be the only time in a day when you have time to just think. Make time to ponder, your subconscious will continue to work long after you’ve gone on to other things.
12. Use triage on daily time wasters
Ask yourself, “Is this the most valuable thing I could be doing right now?” During a disaster, first responders are trained to treat victims based on the seriousness of their condition. Each day you have more problems than you can handle. Choose the ones that are important, not just urgent, not just the one that happens to be in front of you.
13. Lighten up
Which of these items is actionable, fits with best practices, and will help secure buy-in by addressing core competencies? If you actually understood the question buried in the gobbledygook, the answer is all of them. Business jargon is a waste of time, counterproductive, and it makes you sound pompous. Just say what you mean.
14. Stop doing too much
The harried butcher who backed into a meat slicer got more than a little behind in his work. A cut in productivity (and health) is inevitable when you work too hard. Worse, you also miss out on a lot of life. No one ever died wishing they spent more time at the office.
A good friend of mine lives by the phrase, “life may be short, but it’s wide.” The road you take is the one you choose. Why not enjoy the journey?
Tom Harnish is a serial entrepreneur. Always on the bleeding edge of technology, he learned what works (and what doesn't) leading projects, products and companies to success (mostly). He can't play a lot of musical instruments.